The industry of the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina recently presented one more prototype of a 100% Brazilian vehicle. It is the M8, an eight-wheel drive truck developed to operate in “terrain of great difficulty”, according to the president of the Federation of Industries of the State of Santa Catarina (Fiesc), José Fernando Xavier Faraco.
The M8 is the second “concept vehicle” born in the Automotive Program of the State of Santa Catarina, sponsored by the Fiesc. The first was the Project A4, a jeep to be produced in Joinville that is going to start being sold at the beginning of 2007.
The truck was developed by a team of five engineers, among them Faraco himself, who developed the software systems used. From the drawing boards to the prototype, the development of the project took one year and a half.
The objective, according to Faraco, who is also one of the three investors in the project, was to create a vehicle for multiple uses.
“A Swiss army penknife,” he said. Initially, the idea was to develop a utilitarian vehicle turned to the agricultural sector, to be used in farm work, but also to “take the family to church”.
But the project evolved. According to Faraco, apart from the agricultural area, the M8 may be adapted for other purposes, such as rescue in sites of difficult access, border control, environmental patrol and for use by defense institutes like the Federal Police, Civil Defense and naturally, the Armed Forces. The foreign market is also a target.
The prototype presented by the Fiesc was dressed for military use. In this configuration, the vehicle may carry up to 16 people, six in the cabin and 10 in the back, and may be equipped with lateral rocket launchers and a rotating machine gun.
But the great differentials of this vehicle are in its traction systems and in the electronics used. Apart from eight-wheel drive, independent suspensions and a winch, the M8 has a hydraulic claw system, under the floor, that may be used to help the vehicle move in extremely difficult terrain.
“And everything in this vehicle has pneumatic and hydraulic operation controlled by electric pulses. This means that it may be operated by remote control,” stated Faraco.
Another innovation is the reverse system, which is similar to that used in grading machinery, making it possible for the vehicle to move at high speed in reverse (up to fourth gear) for rapid escape in situations of danger. According to Faraco, the M8 “has had a positive impact in the military area.”
Although the prototype is equipped with an MWM 229 six-cylinder engine, Faraco stated that the project attracted the attention of great companies like Scania, whose special engine division is interested in equipping the model.
The project timeline shows that production should begin in the beginning of 2008. The establishment of the infrastructure for production of the truck will require investment of around US$ 9.5 million, in current figures.
The idea is to raise the funds in the same way as is being done with the A4 Project: establishing a company to attract shareholders, mainly among the local producer of auto parts.
Marketing for the State
In fact, one of the objectives of the M8 is to advertise the potential of the local industry. According to Faraco, the vehicle has a high degree of “use of material produced in the state”, with a large part of the components being produced in the state of Santa Catarina itself.
“We are showing the market something new and viable: that the state of Santa Catarina has a high capacity to project and execute prototypes like this one,” he said, adding that the potential shown in the areas of mechanics and electronics may be used to develop projects for the auto industry in general.
The president of the Fiesc stated that the strengthening of the local auto parts industry and the need for a carmaker in the state were the reasons for creation of the Santa Catarina State Automotive Project.
“Carmakers have a very large bargaining power, and they can decide how much they want to pay suppliers. Companies are at the limit,” he said.
“We are after the development of a product to create certain market niches, custom selected, with the creation of companies whose shareholders are the suppliers.
“Therefore, even if they sell the products at a loss, they are going to participate in a business that, in the end, will generate a product of much greater added value,” he added.
In the Oven
The idea is also to spread this potential around the state. The A4 will be produced in Joinville, in the north of the state of Santa Catarina, and the M8 should be produced in Florianópolis, the state capital.
In the meantime, a third project is in the oven: that for an amphibian vehicle of the size of a jeep. “And it may be produced in the city of Criciúma,” ended Faraco.
The Fiesc operates as an “inducer” of the projects, working on market studies and attracting investors.
Anba – www.anba.com.br